Jasmine Pisapia received her PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology from Columbia University in 2022. She has since been a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at McGill University and adjunct professor at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice. Her work as an anthropologist and curator focuses on the aesthetics of environmental crisis. Her forthcoming book, Taken by Poison: Aesthetics and Environmental Crisis in Italy’s Postindustrial South, traces the afterlives of industrial capitalism and its poisons in one of Europe’s most polluted cities—Taranto, Southern Italy. The book documents psychic and corporeal experiences of toxicity by tending to everyday narratives of illness and death, as well as the political and artistic responses of affected communities.

Her research engages the practices of contemporary artists, as well as post-WWII Italian intellectual history, re-reading the work of Pier Paolo Pasolini and Ernesto De Martino through a feminist and ecological lens. Taking artistic practice as both an object and method for ethnographic research, she draws on her experience as a film curator (Festival du nouveau cinéma, Critical Media Lab) and dramaturg for collaborative performance works (New York City Players). She has co-founded collettivo epidemia, a research collective invested in political ecology, art, and agriculture in Italy.

While You Were Asleep: An Environmental Anthropology of Mount Vesuvius
ICI Project 2024-26

Situated in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius in what is considered a ‘red zone’ of volcanic risk by the Italian state, the ‘Land of Fires’ is known today for having transformed volcanic caves and archaeological parks into massive toxic waste burial grounds. Referring to the dormant state of the volcano, While You Were Asleep traces several overlapping environmental histories of fire in Southern Italy: from ancestral volcanic eruptions to the slow imperceptible contamination of burning lands.

This research deals with the aesthetics of ecological crises at different spatial and temporal scales. Spatially, infinitesimal poisons oscillate between the visible and the invisible, impacting human bodies and communities over generations. At a temporal level, the slow violence of toxicity meets the sudden intensification of death and illness stories in everyday life, leaving people with a contradictory experience of time, as well as of space. Drawing on ethnographic and artistic research with a group of environmental activists in the Land of Fires, this project proposes collaborative artistic practice as a form of knowledge production and explores the potential of embodied storytelling, alternative pedagogies, and in-situ theatre performance to address life in toxic landscapes.